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Edwards v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 10, 2014

WANDA EDWARDS, as the mother and next friend of her deceased child, PARISE MERCER Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO and UNKNOWN CHICAGO POLICE OFFICERS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the court on plaintiff's objection to the Magistrate Judge's order and motion to set aside his ruling [93]. The Court referred this action to Judge Kim for supervision of discovery and settlement discussions, and ordered fact discovery to close by March 7, 2104. The parties were ordered to serve written discovery requests no later than September 20, 2013 and to answer by October 25, 2013. On November 21, 2013, the parties reported to Magistrate Judge Kim "that they do not have any disputed written discovery issues" and written discovery was closed. [44]

Background

Plaintiff Wanda Edwards filed the instant complaint against defendants the City of Chicago and unknown Police officers for the death of her son, Parise Mercer on July 19, 2011. According to defendants, Mercer fired a semi-automatic handgun into a crowd of people outside Harold's Chicken at 9151 S. Ashland Ave in Chicago. There were four primary witnesses to the shooting: Ashton Pugh, Michael Powell, Donte Sawyer and Billie Wofford. Mercer allegedly shot Pugh and Wofford before being shot and killed by defendant officers.

On March 8, 2014, defendants re-visited the scene with some consultants, recovered bullet fragments and identified some potential "bullet-related" damage to garages in the alley. This information was communicated via email to plaintiff on March 10. Defendants provided plaintiff with the crime scene processing and inventory reports and promised to send photographs as soon as possible.

On March 27 plaintiff learned that Pugh and Powell were killed in February and October of 2013, respectively. In an email that same day, plaintiff requested that defendants provide all reports, records and documents relating to the death investigations of Pugh and Powell, as well as any and all mug shots for Pugh, Powell, Sawyer and Wofford. (Dkt. #93-1, Ex. 1.) The parties dispute whether defendants agreed to produce all the requested documents.

On April 3, this Court extended the deadline for fact discovery to May 16, 2014. On April 10, plaintiff issued a second set of interrogatories regarding the new evidence recovered by defendants. On April 28, defendants produced certain documents relating to Pugh, Powell and Sawyer. On May 2, plaintiff emailed defendants asserting that the produced documents were deficient. On May 13, defendants objected to two of plaintiff's three interrogatories on the basis of attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine.

Plaintiff's filed a motion to compel before Magistrate Judge Kim, which was denied without prejudice and with leave to file a renewed motion to address the timeliness of the March requests and April interrogatories. Plaintiff's renewed motion sought to compel defendants to produce 1) any and all mug shots of Pugh, Powell, Wofford and Sawyer; and 2) all reports and documents regarding the death investigation of Powell and Pugh. After a hearing on the motion, Judge Kim ultimately denied plaintiff's motion as untimely, noting that written discovery was closed and plaintiff had not sought leave to serve additional requests and interrogatories on defendants.

Plaintiff now moves to set aside Magistrate Judge Kim's ruling and order. The Court heard oral arguments on June 12, 2014 and, for the following reasons, plaintiff's objections are overruled.

Legal Standard

Orders on routine discovery issues are considered to be non-dispositive under Rule 72(a). Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); Hall v. Norfolk Southern Ry. Co., 469 F.3d 590, 595 (7th Cir. 2006). A district judge may set aside a magistrate judge's ruling on a non-dispositive motion if the order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). Under this standard, the district court can overturn the magistrate judge's ruling "only if the district court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made." Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Industries Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 943 (7th Cir. 1997). "[I]f there are two permissible views, the reviewing court should not overturn the decision solely because it would have chosen the other view." American Motors Corp. v. Great Am. Surplus Lines Ins. Co., No. 87 CV 2496, 1988 WL 2788, at *1 (N.D.Ill. Jan.8, 1988). The burden of establishing clear error falls on the objecting party. See American Hardware Mfrs. Ass'n v. Reed Elsevier Inc., 2007 WL 1438470, at *1 (N.D.Ill. May 11, 2007).

Discussion

1. Plaintiff's Request for Production of Documents on March 27, 2014

Plaintiff asserts that her March 27, 2014 request for production of documents is timely, relevant and seeks highly probative information. Plaintiff concedes that written discovery closed months before she served her requests by email, but argues that defendants deliberately withheld information that ...


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